Judge dismisses Team Maximum Security's Kentucky Derby lawsuit

November 15, 2019 08:21pm

More than six months after the "official" sign lit at Churchill Downs, we appear to have a 2019 Kentucky Derby winner in Country House after the legal challenge levied by connections to disqualified colt Maximum Security was dismissed Friday.

Federal judge Karen Caldwell of the Eastern District of Kentucky on Friday dismissed a lawsuit filed by Maximum Security's owners, Gary and Mary West, in hopes of overturning a stewards decision to place their horse 17th after he crossed the wire in front.

“Kentucky’s regulations make clear that the disqualification is not subject to judicial review,” Caldwell wrote. “Further, the disqualification procedure does not implicate an interest protected under the Due Process Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

“Accordingly, the Court must grant the motion to dismiss.”

The Wests in May sued the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission and three of its stewards after Maximum Security was disqualified from his Kentucky Derby victory.

After a 22-minute review, stewards ruled the Jason Servis-trained son of New Year’s Day interfered with his rivals in the far turn. They elevated runner-up Country House to the winners’ circle and dropped Maximum Security down the order.

The KHRC and its stewards moved in June to dismiss the suit, noting that when the Wests entered Maximum Security into the Kentucky Derby, they agreed to abide by the state’s rules.

Those rules prevent the appeal of stewards’ final race rulings, therefore rendering the Wests’ complaint as an “attempt to appeal the unappealable,” per the KHRC’s June filing.

Caldwell noted those rules in her Friday ruling.

“The state regulations governing the determinations of fouls and disqualifications of horses explicitly provide, however, that the stewards’ decision is final and not subject to appeal,” Caldwell wrote. “… In their response, the Wests do not explain why the Court should simply ignore this regulation and conduct an appellate review of the stewards’ decision.”

Maximum Security has raced three times since his Kentucky Derby DQ, notching his second (official) Grade 1 win July 20 in Monmouth Park’s Haskell Invitational. He’s targeting the $750,000 Cigar Mile Handicap (G1) on Dec. 7 at Aqueduct for the final start of his 3-year-old campaign.


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